Apple Inc. reversed course on a decision to force popular blogging platform WordPress to add in-app purchases to its app, a move that could help lessen tensions between Apple and developers amid a public battle with Epic Games.
The WordPress said that Apple had informed it that it had 30 days to add in-app-purchases to its application, which would have given Apple a 30% cut of purchases of WordPress.com plans purchased via the app. Apple’s request was questioned by developers online as the WordPress app previously didn’t offer a way to purchase plans inside their app, rather just on its website.
“We believe the issue with the WordPress app has been resolved,” an Apple spokesman said in a statement. “Since the developer removed the display of their service payment options from the app, it is now a free stand-alone app and does not have to offer in-app purchases. We have informed the developer and apologize for any confusion that we have caused.”
The move was earlier seen by some as Apple forcing a developer to add purchases inside of its app in order to give the company a share of revenue that was not previously taken in by the app’s developers. The App Store makes up a sizable portion of Apple’s $50 billion per year services business.
Apple, however, says that WordPress submitted an update to the app that would have allowed customers to buy upgraded plans in the app, not via in app-purchases. WordPress previously advertised its plans in the app, without offering a way to purchase them directly.
“We will continue to be responsive and do our best to be within both the spirit and letter of the app store rules, including closing any webview loopholes that pop up,” Matt Mullenweg, WordPress’ founder, said in a tweet.
The latest decision on WordPress could calm tensions with developers, some of which have sided with Epic Games in a battle over the fees Apple charges developers. Epic Games unilaterally decided to avert Apple’s payment structure, leading Apple to remove its Fortnite game from the App Store and threaten to revoke its developer account.
Apple added that it reviews 100,000 apps per week and intends to help developers keep their apps on the App Store. The iPhone maker said WordPress no longer violates the rule as it will no longer advertise the plans.
Apple says epic sought special ‘side’ deal on Fortnite fee
Apple Inc. fired back at Epic Games Inc. in their fight over the iPhone maker’s app fees, saying the game developer’s boss sought a special “side” deal that would fundamentally upend how the App Store works.
“Having decided that it would rather enjoy benefits of the App Store without paying for them, Epic has breached its contracts with Apple, using its own customers and Apple’s users as leverage,” Apple said in a court filing.
Epic is set to ask a federal court on Monday to force Apple to restore the Fortnite app to the App Store, and block the company from cutting off Epic’s developer tools and limiting its ability to provide key graphics technology to other apps. Apple is urging a judge in Oakland, California, to reject Epic’s request.
The dispute is shaping up into a major antitrust showdown as friction between developers and Apple has been building for more than a year. Developers have been increasingly calling out Apple’s App Store fee policies and rules, complaining they are unfair and only benefit the company’s own services. Of the 2.2 million apps available on the App Store, the 30% fee is billed to more than 350,000. Apple reduces the fee to 15% for subscriptions after a user signs up for more than a year.
Apple said Epic created a “hot mess” by offering customers a way to directly buy items for Fortnite and circumvent the App Store fees. Apple said it won’t bend its rules for Epic.
Epic Chief Executive Officer Tim Sweeney emailed Apple on June 30 seeking to set up its own competing Epic Games Store app through the App Store, according to Apple’s filing. Despite being told that “Apple has never allowed this,” Epic went ahead and launched its own storefront on Aug. 13, Apple said.
Phil Schiller, head of Apple’s App Store, said in the filing that “Sweeney’s pronouncement undid one of the most fundamental terms of the business relationship that had existed between the parties for many years.”
“If tolerated, Epic’s unilateral and ongoing breach of its contractual commitments will send giant ripples across the entire App Store business model and ecosystem to the detriment of not only Apple, but also the users and developers who depend on the integrity and security of the App Store,” Schiller said.